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NATCA, Impact Of Sequestration Potential For Major Hits To Aviation Industry
By Shane Nolan

December 13, 2012 - The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) on Wednesday released a report outlining the major impact sequestration will have on the aviation industry and the U.S. economy if Congress does not act to avert the across-the-board cuts. 

As a legal term, sequestration is the seizing of property by an agent of the court, to prevent destruction or harm, while any dispute over said property is resolved in court. Sequestration was first authorized by the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985. This is known as the Gramm Rudman Hollings Act. 

In 2011 sequestration was used in the Budget Control Act of 2011 as a tool in federal budget control. The Budget Control Act of 2011 authorized an increase in the debt ceiling in exchange for $2.4 trillion in deficit reduction over the next ten years. 


This total includes $1.2 trillion in spending cuts identified specifically in the legislation, with an additional $1.2 trillion in cuts that are to be determined by a bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives known as the “Super Committee” or officially as the United States Congress Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. 

In the event the Super Committee fails to reach an agreement, the bill created a trigger mechanism to implement drastic across-the-board spending reductions known as “sequestration. 

The Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Deficit Reduction Act (GRHDRA) of 1985 created a congressional procedure, now known as sequestration, which draws attention to Federal government's budget. Before the GRHDRA was passed, multiple appropriation bills would be passed by Congress creating a total sum of government spending that exceeded overall budget goals. Under sequestration, if this total exceeds the annual Budget Resolution, spending is automatically cut. 

Sequestration should reduce spending across the board (affecting all departments and programs by an equal percentage), but Congress has at times exempted certain programs (such as Social Security). Such exemptions create greater burdens for those programs that are not exempted. The amount exceeding the budget limit is held back by the Treasury and not transferred to the agencies specified in the appropriation bills.



“As the front line safety professionals in the aviation community, it is our role to warn the rest of the country that these cuts will be detrimental to our National Airspace System and the economy,” said NATCA President Paul Rinaldi. “We urge Congress to act to prevent the sequester before it’s too late.” The report states that all users and operators of the National Airspace System (NAS) including travelers, general aviation pilots, airlines, businesses and the military will feel the impact of the cuts in the form of a reduction in airport and air traffic control services, a diminishing of the NAS’s flight capacity, increased delays and costs to airlines and lags in air traffic modernization. 

It further warns that cutting the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) operations budget by the mandated 8.2 percent could result in furloughing between 2,000 and 2,200 air traffic controllers, about 12 percent of the workforce. This would inevitably lead to a reduction in services, reduced capacity, and fewer flights. The resulting ripple effect would negatively impact airlines, pilots, flight attendants, private aviation, airport employees, passengers and the many businesses that depend on a vibrant aviation sector, which drives nearly 10 million jobs and contributes $1.3 trillion to the nation’s GDP. 

The report describes how the effects could be felt by airports that rely on passenger and landing fees and other passenger-generated revenue, a reduction in airspace capacity would increase airline delays and costs, resulting in decreased passenger demand as prices become unfeasible for average Americans. The report notes that the sequester would put at risk the several NextGen modernization projects being pursued jointly by the FAA, NATCA and the aviation industry that are currently seeing great progress.

Advancements in programs such as ERAM and Optimization of Airspaces and Procedures in the Metroplex would be unnecessarily and irreparably delayed if sequestration is implemented. Reduced spending for NextGen research, planning and construction would not only delay essential modernization, but would also reduce valuable research investments critical to the U.S. economy. “The U.S. has the safest and most efficient airspace in the world and the FAA needs appropriate funding to continue directing it,” said NATCA Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert. “If Congress allows sequestration to become a reality, the aviation community and the economy will take a major hit. We cannot afford to let that happen.”

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